Lam-Larsen Funds: Opening Doors for Underrepresented Students in Business & Accounting

Lam Family College of Business Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Initiative

By Gail Mallimson, University Development

Lam Family College of Business professor Theresa Hammond, Ph.D. has a mission to shine a spotlight on accounting. Her focus is on celebrating and supporting the inclusion of African Americans and other traditionally underrepresented groups in accounting. She literally wrote the book on the subject, with her doctoral thesis and 2002 book, “A White-Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants Since 1921.” The book profiles the trials and successes of the first African American CPAs, many of whom opened the doors to the profession for young people who came behind them.

Theresa, a faculty member in the Accounting department at San Francisco State for more than 15 years, is still working on keeping those doors open. As director of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Initiative in the college, her mission is to make accounting and business accessible and attractive to SF State students. The DEIB Initiative is funded by the Lam-Larsen Funds, a $25 Million+ gift made to the college by Chris Larsen (B.S., ’84), his wife Lyna Lam, and Rippleworks in 2018.

In conjunction with the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), Theresa organizes local business leaders and SF State students to volunteer in high school classrooms in Oakland. The volunteers teach high school students business concepts and practices, using games and fun activities to encourage interest in business and business education. Last year, 30 SF State students joined 50 professionals in working with 100 Oakland high school students. Theresa attributes some of these numbers to the Lam-Larsen Funds, which enable her to pay SF State students a stipend to participate in the program. The stipend attracted new students and diversified the cohort. Theresa estimates that more than 90% of the students in the program are from underrepresented communities.

While the activities in the classrooms are designed to teach high school students, many SF State students find it personally rewarding as well. “They are so proud of themselves because sometimes they don’t realize how much business knowledge they possess. They might be struggling with their own classes, and yet when working with high school students they often realize, ‘I know how to do a business plan,’” says Theresa. “I find it literally the most fulfilling thing I do.”

The program also opens doors to networking and career pathways for SF State students. Working side by side with business volunteers, many of whom are from underrepresented communities themselves, the students develop relationships and connect with mentors. Sometimes, they are even recruited – several have gotten jobs or internships.

The DEIB Initiative also offers a physical open-door to students on campus, through the DEIB Lounge in the Business building. The lounge is open to students on an ongoing basis and is stocked with business-related books, snacks, places to socialize, and a computer and printer for student use. DEIB also schedules on-site special activities. Last year, they put the word out to their business volunteers and contacts requesting donations of business clothes, and received many boxes of clothing. 200 students visited the DEIB Lounge and Career Services office to receive clothing for business interviews and jobs, with most also receiving professional headshots taken by an SF State student. 

Theresa plans on continuing the volunteer program and hopes in the coming year to also offer funding to students and lecturer faculty who wish to attend various DEIB conferences such as the Association of Latino Professionals for America’s (ALPFA) regional student symposium, Association of Indigenous Business Leaders, National Black MBA Association, and ROMBA (LGBTQ MBA group). 

Community-building with activities in the lounge will also continue, with an eye towards helping student organizations such as the Association of Latinx Professionals student group and Black Business Student Association develop. These groups took a hit during the pandemic and are still working on achieving the levels of participation that they enjoyed before. “The students are really eager and excited to participate in our programming,” says Theresa. “The Lam-Larsen Funds are fundamental in allowing us to build on that excitement and support our students in their educational journeys.”

For more information, contact:

Anjali Billa ( She/Her/Hers )
Associate Vice President of University Development
(415) 405-3625